Even Jaws loves biodiesel

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Biodiesel made from soybean oil is everywhere — even in the most frightening theme park rides in this country.

Turns out several high profile companies have pledged to •go green' and have moved towards green fuels to run everything from park attractions to power and light utility trucks. That much I discovered when I visited the National Biodiesel Conference in Orlando earlier this month, in Orlando, Fla. Jaws, the mega-ride at Universal Studios Theme Park, uses several tour boats that all run on biodiesel.

If you've never had a chance to take the ride (left), it's fairly straight forward. Unassuming riders climb into boats powered by biodiesel and take a short trip around a small lagoon when all of a sudden a huge mechanical shark comes roaring out of the deep right next to your boat. If you've seen the movie you can imagine what that experience is like. Just picture the late Roy Scheider, one of the actors in the boat when the big shark first leaps out of the water and Scheider proclaims, "We're going to need a bigger boat.•bCrLf

Walt Disney Resort also uses B20 (20% biodiesel blended with 80% petroleum diesel) in its guest bus fleet and horticulture equipment, as well as a 99% biodiesel blend to power the MagicKingdom steam trains. In fact, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority uses biodiesel blends in nearly 600 pieces of airport equipment ranging from lawn mowers and power equipment to truck and airport shuttles. The Authority buys about 1,000 gallons of B20 each week.

David Winslow Sr., (right) Director of engineering and environmental sustainability - technical services at Universal, says the biodiesel that powers

the Jaws ride is from soybeans grown in the Midwest. The entire park is committed to using one form or another of renewable fuels. That includes B20, Ethanol (10% blend) and E85.

"Every diesel engine we have runs on biodiesel,•bCrLf he says. "We keep excellent records on maintenance to be able to precisely determine if there are any issues and at this point, there are no issues,•bCrLf he says.

"We are reducing greenhouse gases and while it might not save the world, we are saving 158 metric tons of carbon each year,•bCrLf he points out.

What's next? Universal is about to start converting all of its resort boats — those boats that take guest to and from resorts to the park - to biodiesel. And the conversion includes Volkswagen inboard engines capable of running higher level biodiesel - the engines are actually warranted for B100. This will increase Universal's biodiesel fuel usage by about 50%.

"Most of our boat drivers didn't even know we were running biodiesel,•bCrLf says Winslow. "The difference in soot and exhaust is significantly better than the old diesel fuel. The smell is much more desirable than just plain petroleum diesel and the engines are quieter.

With higher soybean prices, biodiesel prices have also shot up. Would higher prices for biodiesel deter folks like Winslow? Nope.

"We've made a commitment to use biodiesel because it's the right thing to do,•bCrLf he says.

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